Crowds line 30km of streets to welcome Vietnam’s U23 football heroes home

By VNExpress Staff reporters January 28, 2018 | 12:50 pm GMT+7

Football fans lined the streets on Sunday morning to welcome home their young heroes, forcing the PM to wait for five hours to see them.

Despite a heart-breaking last-minute defeat to Uzbekistan in the final of the AFC U23 Championship on Saturday, the Vietnamese team has returned home to a jubilant reception.

Hailed as national heroes, South Korean coach Park Hang-seo’s team made history at the tournament with thrilling victories over regional powerhouses Australia, Iraq and Qatar.

It was the first time a Vietnamese national team has made it to the final of a continental championship, attracting attention from global football fans.

Thousands of supporters flocked to the streets from Noi Bai Airport to the city center to greet the team bus.

Vietnams U23 football team arrives at Noi Bai International Airport. Pictured here are coach Park Hang-seo who comes out first and captain Luong Xuan Truong in blue shirt. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh

Vietnam’s U23 football team arrives at Noi Bai International Airport. Pictured here are coach Park Hang-seo who comes out first and captain Luong Xuan Truong in blue shirt. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh

Coach Park Hang-seo waves as he descends from the plane at Noi Bai International Airport. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh

Coach Park Hang-seo waves as he descends from the plane at Noi Bai International Airport. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh

Vietnams best goal scorer at the AFC U23 Championship Nguyen Quang Hai said he coldnt believe the team would receive such a warm welcome. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Dong

Vietnam’s best goal scorer at the AFC U23 Championship Nguyen Quang Hai said he coldn’t believe the team would receive such a warm welcome. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Dong

Goalkeeper Bui Tien Dung struggles to go past a sea of supporters trying to get a picture of him at Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Dong

Goalkeeper Bui Tien Dung struggles to go past a sea of supporters trying to get a picture of him at Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Dong

An overhead view of Noi Bải airport the U23 football team are welcomed home after an incredible journey. Lam

An overhead view of Noi Bải Airport where the U23 football team are welcomed home after an incredible journey. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh

The bus carrying the national U23 football team is welcomed by a sea of red in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Du

The bus carrying the national U23 football team is welcomed by a sea of red in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Du

Vietnams U23 football players greet euphoric fans in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh

Vietnam’s U23 football players greet euphoric fans in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh

Fans are over the moon upon seeing their national heroes. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh

Fans are over the moon upon seeing their national heroes. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh

Family of Nguyen Thi Cuc, 95, have been waiting by the Nhat Tan Bridge in Hanoi since 11:30 a.m. to welcome the U23 football team. Photo by VnExpress/Duong Tam

Family of Nguyen Thi Cuc, 95, have been waiting by the Nhat Tan Bridge in Hanoi since 11:30 a.m. to welcome the U23 football team. Photo by VnExpress/Duong Tam

Huge crowds show up for Vietnams history-making U23 teams homecoming - 6

Huge crowds line up the streets of Hanoi where the bus carrying Vietnam’s U23 football team is set to pass. Photo by VnExpress

Huge crowds show up for Vietnams history-making U23 teams homecoming - 7

The U23 football team’s fans range from babies to seniors. Photo by VnExpress

The team then proceeded to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum at 6:30 p.m. to pay their respects to Vietnam’s revolutionary leader. Half an hour later, they made it to the office of the Government where they received accolades from Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Deputy PM Vu Duc Dam, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Ngoc Thien and other high profile leaders.

“I had to wait here for over five hours,” PM Phuc told the team. “Never has a prime minister had to wait for so long for anybody but I had never felt so happy waiting as I share the joy with the entire nation.”

PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc (L) shakes hands with coach Park Hang-seo (R) at the office of the Government. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc (L) shakes hands with coach Park Hang-seo (R) at the office of the Government. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

The Vietnam U23 football team poses for a photo with, second row, left to right, Deputy PM Vu Duc Dam, U23 team captain Luong Xuan Truong, PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc, coach Park Hang-seo and head of the Government Office Mai Tien Dung

The Vietnam U23 football team poses for a photo with, second row, left to right, Deputy PM Vu Duc Dam, U23 team captain Luong Xuan Truong, PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc, coach Park Hang-seo and head of the Government Office Mai Tien Dung. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

Previously, the PM personally called to congratulate the entire U23 team on their semifinal victory against Qatar, and after the victories against Iraq and Australia.

Before the final against Uzbekistan, Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang signed a decision to grant the first class Labor Order to the entire U23 team, and third class Labor Orders to goalkeeper Bui Tien Dung and midfielder Nguyen Quang Hai for their excellent contributions at the 2018 U23 Asian Cup Championship in China.

South Korean coach Park Hang-seo was also awarded a third class Labor Order.

The team will join their fans for a home-coming celebration at My Dinh Stadium on Sunday evening.

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